Commentary: Sex abuse victims struggle to lose pounds put on as protective measure
By James Fell, Chicago Tribune
I recently wrote a Facebook post asking about sexual abuse and the link to obesity. I thought I might get a few messages, but was surprised when more than 150 people — including a few men — shared their stories.
“I was sexually abused by a babysitter at age 5, and by my cousin from ages 8 to 13,” said Sarah Fitzsimons, 38, from Colorado. “I always felt like my parents didn’t do anything to protect me.”
Fitzsimons says the focus in her family was the way she looked. She recalls being referred to as “the thin, pretty one” out of five siblings. After the abuse started, she used food as a coping mechanism, she said. “It’s what comforts me. It was the one thing I could control.”
Now about 80 pounds overweight, she says “being fat feels safer, but it doesn’t feel great.” Fitzsimons says she’s interested in weight loss, but that she feels her size prevents unwanted sexual attention. This is not to say that body fat prevents sexual assault; it doesn’t. For her, she has found there is less lewd commentary from men about the way she looks when she is carrying extra pounds.
In the early 1980s, Dr. Vincent Felitti uncovered the connection between “adverse childhood experiences” (ACE) and a host of negative physical and mental health outcomes, obesity included.
“We stumbled into this by accident” said Felitti. He was running a major obesity program. He told me about a woman who weighed 408 pounds. Through a fasting protocol, they helped her get down to 132 pounds. “She stayed there for several weeks, then suddenly regained 37 pounds in only three weeks.”
The woman had a history of sleepwalking as a child. During the weight regain, she would go to bed with a clean kitchen and wake up to a messy one. She was sleep eating. Felitti endeavored to get to the bottom of it.
He learned her grandfather raped her repeatedly between the ages of 11 and 20, then she put on weight. After Felitti helped her lose weight, an older, married man at work began making inappropriate and highly suggestive remarks regarding her new shape. The unwanted sexual attention triggered the regain, he said.
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.